By Chris Andrasick
Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Digital Commerce

Over the past few years, focus has been growing around the convergence of digital experiences between business-to-business (B2B) commerce sites and their direct to consumer equivalents (B2C, or business-to-consumer). All users are human beings at the end of the day. Yet, despite this focus, there are major differences between B2B and B2C sites that affect site deployment, business integration and rules. In today’s blog, we’ll take a look at the three most prominent differences.

1: The Number of Audiences

Online consumer shoppers are typically segmented by behavior and demographic profiles, but still represent a single constituency with a single set of digital tools: browse, search, cart, checkout, etc. B2B platforms must support both the buyers and their procurement departments. B2B buyers need frictionless bulk purchasing and multiple product lists beyond the shopping cart. Procurement needs an approval workflow and reporting tools to manage accounts payable from multiple buyers within their organization. As these processes will vary from organization to organization, the workflow customization must be self-serviceable.

2: Dynamic Product Pricing

In the B2C space, products have a list price and purchasers apply promotions based on a set of determined rules. The more sophisticated online stores may segment their customers and apply those pricing rules to each segment. In the B2B space, these pricing rules often vary so much that they are often maintained on a per business customer basis. In fact, there is often a facility to negotiate provided by the B2B platform. This additional complexity has ramifications in two major areas. The first is that the technical approach to performance optimizing access to this information is fundamentally different (edge server caching for the more technically minded). The second is that these price lists usually reside in an existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. You don’t need to know what this means. What you do need to know is that there is significant cost and effort required to make your online B2B store and your legacy system talk to each other. Plan accordingly.

3: Individuals Love Magical iPhones, Corporations are Luddites

Internet Explorer (IE) still claims 55 percent market share on desktop devices (as of November 2015). Somewhere between 6-7 percent of these Desktops are still on IE9. This isn’t because people love their old, standards-defiant version of Internet Explorer. It is because behind the firewalls of many big company information system (IS) departments, application rollouts are akin to moon launches. Before you integrate those fancy JavaScript visual effects, consider that most of your business customers will be using their prescribed desktop browser at work. Sacrifice the slick for the functional and design your B2B experience to be backward compatible and test accordingly. Also think about change management carefully. B2B sites are applications with complicated use cases that your customers will have mastered over time.

While many parallels can be drawn between B2C and B2B digital experiences, there are still some key differences, and successful site deployment hinges on keeping those differences in mind.